Saturday, April 25, 2009

John Baron MP welcomes news Titan prisons have been abandoned

News comes after John forced the Government to own up about possible site plans for Wickford

John Baron MP has welcomed news today that plans for Titan prisons holding up to 2,500 offenders have been scrapped. Concerns had been raised about the size of the new jails impacting on rehabilitation outcomes. It had been thought that one Titan prison had been earmarked for the Thames Gateway area, leading John to make a formal Freedom of Information Act Request for a list of possible locations after the Government refused to rule out Basildon as a possible site. Today’s announcement comes as the deadline expires for the Ministry of Justice to make the information available to John, after the Information Commissioner ordered publication. The list of sites, now finally published, confirms that a site in Wickford was under consideration.

John said:
I am pleased the Government has finally woken up to the fact that Titan prisons are not the way to go. We do urgently need more prison places to tackle overcrowding, but all the evidence suggests that smaller jails provide better rehabilitation outcomes.

There was a real danger that Ministers were trying to sneak a Titan prison in locally, possibly in Wickford, without consulting local people. My Freedom of Information Act request revealed the Government wanted to buy the land for sites before informing residents.

It is a shame the Government were forced to reveal this information only as a result of my Freedom of Information Act request: so much for open and transparent Government.

I am grateful to the Information Commissioner for highlighting the Government’s poor handling of this request. It twice failed to respond within the time allowed by law and failed to draw attention to environmental aspects of the plans.

We don't have that much land in Basildon District that is suitable for development and taking what little we have up with a prison would have been very damaging for the District. Prisions are very necessary, but they have to be in the right place. That means where they don't crowd out homes and jobs and so wreck opportunities for local people.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Another take on Brown's scheme for MPs expenses

The Daily Mash has a penetrating critique of Gordon Brown's scheme for MPs expenses here. I was going to blog on this subject, but I think the article says it all.

Telegraph Poll - Consrvatives 18 points ahead

The first post-budget poll in the Telegraph has Conservatives on 45 per cent, up four on last month. Labour is on 27 per cent, down four. The the Liberal Democrats are on 18. Except that the fieldwork was apparently done on Wednesday and Thursday, so this may not be entirely reflective of the budget yet, which most would agree has been a disaster in political terms. Anything that puts Labour less than 30 in a standard opinion poll is very bad for them, because that is all through swing voters and into their core support base. Being 18 points behind the opposition is also very, very bad. We are now in the run up to the Euro and County Council elections, and these numbers do not auger well at all for Labour. If those elections are a catastrophe then where does that leave Brown? Past form suggests that he will carry on. If they let him.

Downing Street petition for Gordon Brown to resign

'We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to resign', sign up here.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


What needs to be said about the budget has already been said; fantasy estimates for growth, incredible levels of borrowing, no practical plan to turn the country's finances around. The media and commentators are almost uniformly hostile and nearly everyone is staggered at the sheer lack of leadership at a time of national crisis. This brings us to the 50% tax band for those earning over £150k. This won't bring in much cash and risks damaging the sort of wealth creation that we need to bring us out of recession. None of that matters to this Labour government though, because all they wanted was to wrong-foot the Conservatives on tax, to push David Cameron into standing up for high earners and so position themselves as champions of 'ordinary' people. As a political trap it is so transparent that it would only work if the Conservative leadership were idiots and actually they aren't. Gordon Brown isn't going to get the argument he wants. That isn't going to stop some on the Right wanting the Conservatives to oblige as if this was just some sort of intellectual exercise. It started today with Simon Heffer in the Telegraph:
So what does Mr Cameron do? Does he say that the "rich" must be punished for the failings of the Labour government that he hopes to replace? Or does he say that this partisan policy, which will raise relatively little money, is unfair and counter-productive, and will not be persisted with should he come to power after April next year?
Heffer doesn't even toy with the idea that doing exactly what Gordon Brown wants might be unwise for the Conservatives. He thinks that ideological purity matters more than practicality. That might be forgiveable in a donkey-jacketed student activist, but it is pathetic and laughable for someone who wants to speak with any authority on politics.

Meanwhile our country desperately needs new leadership and that is what real Conservatives are focusing on.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Pitsea drug trreatment centre application withdrawn

Very good news that the planning application by Essex County Council for a drug and alcohol treatment centre in Pitsea town centre has been withdrawn. Unfortunately, the proposed location was the in the middle of a parade of shops, and was clearly unsuitable. Credit goes to the County for being so responsive to local feeling, which was pretty unanimously against the proposed site, and for stopping the application so quickly. Of course, we are committed to give people the help that they need, and drug addicts in particular must be given the chance to get off their poison and back into some kind of a life. That can't be at the expense of the rest of the community though. I am sure that between Essex and Basildon Councils, local Councillors and local people we can come up with a solution that meets everyone's needs.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Not just the Westminster Village

The unspoken question in political circles has been how the Labour smears scandal was playing in the country at large. There was some hope among the Left that amid rising unemployment, falling wages and negative equity people would just see this a political froth that was disconnected from their lives and so there would be little impact on voting intention. Such hopes are now dashed. Two polls have come out in the Mail on Sunday and the Sunday Telegraph that put the Conservatives 19 and 17 points ahead respectively, this after the Conservative lead was recently down to 8 after the G20 summit. This is a real and devastating impact, taking Labour well below the 30 points that was previously seen as their core level of support. Anecdotal evidence also suggests that the Labour Party itself is disgusted at their leadership. How about a Labour Mayor spending a whole evening at a Civic Dinner disparaging Gordon Brown to a mixed audience? When party stalwarts like that start to rubbish the man at the top in public, while veteran ex-MP walks then there is a real problem.

We have Euro and County elections in June, and while the Euro election results will probably not be clear-cut because of PR and the probably retreat of UKIP, the Counties could be bloody. What would happen after that, if the disgraceful behaviour of no.10 cuts a swathe right through Labour's already depleted Councillor ranks? Brown has never won a national election, after all of this why does anyone think that he can?